Pine Grove Borough
Pine Grove Borough Hall, 1 Snyder Street, Pine Grove, PA 17963; phone: 570-345-3555.
Pine Grove Historic District is located in southwest Schuylkill County about fifteen miles southwest of Pottsville. It is situated on the floor of a narrow valley carved by Swatara Creek where the stream curves from the north to the west. The creek runs along the east edge of the historic district. The district lies in the southern end of Pine Grove Borough. The borough's more recent development lies outside the historic district to the north. South Tulpehocken Street, the main road in the historic district, runs through the district from the north to the southwest. A street grid extends one block west and four blocks east of South Tulpehocken Street. A former canal basin lies between Carbon Street which arcs along the eastern edge of the street grid, and Swatara Creek. Most buildings in the historic district are two to two and one half story frame residences dating primarily from the second half of the nineteenth century and the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most contributing buildings are vernacular in appearance, with one seventh of the contributing buildings built in nineteenth century and early twentieth century high styles. The historic district possesses very good integrity with very few changes to contributing buildings, and with a small proportion of non-contributing buildings.
Almost all of the contributing buildings are detached homes or duplexes set close to the streets and each other. Only a few homes are row houses. In addition, only seven buildings are used for commercial purposes, four buildings are churches, and one building is a school. The large majority of contributing buildings — almost nine tenths — are frame, while one tenth are constructed of brick, and a small number are stone.
Most of the contributing buildings were erected between 1850 and 1937. Only one building, a c. 1750 house, was built before 1800. One fifth of the contributing buildings were erected between 1800 and 1849, just over two fifths were constructed between 1850 and 1899, and just under two fifths were built between 1900 and 1937.
The vernacular buildings share a similar two to two and one half story height and simple, unadorned appearance. They are mostly two to five bay wide single homes or duplexes. They have gable roofs with interior end chimneys. These vernacular homes are generally sided with weatherboard and have double hung windows and panelled doors surrounded by plain wooden frames. Shed roof porches supported by simple squared or rounded columns span part or all of the front facades of most of the vernacular buildings.
The remaining contributing buildings were built in a range of early nineteenth to early twentieth century high styles. Among the high style buildings are four to seven examples each of the Federal, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Bungalow styles. One or two examples each of the Georgian, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Eastlake, Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles also stand in the historic district. Most of the high style buildings are located along South Tulpehocken Street. Nutting Hall at 205 South Tulpehocken Street was built between 1823 and 1825 in the Federal style. This wood frame home is five bays wide, two and one half stories high, with a gable roof covered with standing seem metal. Six over six windows with panelled shutters, and an entry portico supported by two columns adorn the front facade. The Barto Residence at 159 South Tulpehocken Street is a late 1830s Federal style house. Three bays wide, two and one half stories high with a gable roof, this brick building features two round-headed dormers, a front entrance with pilasters and entablature, and windows with period shutters.
The historic district also contains four examples of the Second Empire style dating from the 1840s to the 1870s. These stately homes are three stories high with mansard roof and arched or round-headed dormers. The cornices are embellished with large carved brackets. The most opulent of these homes is the Miller Mansion at 191 South Tulpehocken Street. Constructed c. 1870, this brick building features a large, ornate front porch and balcony with turned posts and openwork panels of intricate designs.
The historic district also features several Queen Anne and Bungalow style homes built during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "Highspire" at 177 South Tulpehocken Street is a three story, three bay wide Queen Anne style home erected in brick in 1900. Details include a three story tower with pointed slate roof and cast iron finial, a large side porch with columns and decorative balustrade, and a period door with transom. Windows on the upper floor feature decorative glass typical of the Queen Anne style. 286 South Tulpehocken Street is a Bungalow style home. This one and one half story stone house was built during the 1920s with square porch posts and balustrade of wood, and a small wooden dormer.
In addition to high style residential buildings, there is a small number of commercial buildings in the historic district. These include the Masonic Hall at 209 South Tulpehocken Street, a two story, Federal style brick building. This former home was converted into coal company offices, and later into apartments, office and bakery use, and a Masonic hall. The Pine Theater at 213 South Tulpehocken Street features Beaux Arts styling on its two and one half story brick facade. The Summit Station Manufacturing Company at 194-196 South Tulpehocken Street is the only factory in the historic district. This vernacular wood frame building is two stories high.
The historic district also includes a structure and site. The structure is a large former canal basin of the Union Canal. Overgrown with marsh grasses and lined with trees, the canal basin stretches the length of the historic district on its eastern edge. The site is a small cemetery bordering South Tulpehocken Street near the south end of the historic district.
The historic district is a well preserved nineteenth and early twentieth century community. Alterations to contributing buildings are limited to a relatively small number of buildings that have been re-sided with asbestos shingles or aluminum, or had unobtrusive rear shed roof sections added. Railroad tracks which once ran just east of Mifflin Street were torn up; the former railroad right of way is now vacant property. Non-contributing buildings constitute only nine per cent of the total number of buildings in the historic district. Non-contributing buildings generally do not obtrude greatly in streetscapes. They are scattered through the district and are similar in scale and size to the contributing buildings. For example, two 1940s homes at 110 and 112 Mifflin Street are one and one half story brick and cinderblock residences that blend in scale and size with neighboring two story frame houses.
Pine Grove Historic District is significant in local transportation and architecture. Pine Grove was an important transportation center in western Schuylkill County during the mid-nineteenth century. As the northern terminus of a feeder canal for the Union Canal between 1830 and 1862, Pine Grove provided the major outlet for coal shipments from the western end of the Southern Field during a period when this field was the largest producer of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania. Pine Grove has also retained an outstanding collection of vernacular and high style architecture. Pine Grove has the largest and best preserved collection of high style and vernacular nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture in western Schuylkill County.
Pine Grove first burgeoned between 1830 and 1862 with coal traffic on the Union Canal. Before 1830 Pine Grove had been an unincorporated village that included an iron forge, grist mill, tannery, saw mill and distillery, none of which survive today. In 1830 the Union Canal, which stretched from the Schuylkill River at Reading to the Susquehanna River at Middletown, completed a twenty-two mile long feeder canal north from the main canal to Pine Grove. The Pine Grove Feeder provided water for the summit level of the main canal from the High Dam on Swatara Creek just north of Pine Grove. This feeder canal also quickly became a means of shipping coal from the Southern Field, an anthracite field that stretches from the northeast to the southwest in Schuylkill County. Beginning in the 1830s horse drawn and then steam powered railroads were built north from Pine Grove into the western end of this coal field, linking the Southern Field with the Union Canal. As coal poured down the railroads to Pine Grove and the Union Canal, Pine Grove grew rapidly as a transshipment center. The village was incorporated as a borough in 1830. The Union Canal dug a large basin on the east edge of the borough and erected an office at 20 Carbon Street, which has since been converted to a house. Business establishments were constructed to serve the coal traffic, including a hotel at 112 South Tulpehocken Street, which now does business as the D. and S. Cafe. Houses were also built along South Tulpehocken Street and the blocks in between this road and the canal basin. Among these houses were the homes of coal mine owners, such as the residence of mine owner Isaac Kitzmiller at 263 South Tulpehocken Street.
Pine Grove played an important role in the transportation of coal out of western Schuylkill County from 1830 to the mid-nineteenth century. Pine Grove was the central point through which coal mined in the western end of the Southern Field was shipped to market. The Union Canal provided the most economical means of transporting coal out of the western end of the Southern Field until the 1850s. The only other economical way to move coal out of the Southern Field before the mid-nineteenth century was via the Schuylkill Canal which served the central part of the Southern Field. Pine Grove did not begin to relinquish this role in shipping coal until the 1850s when railroads built between Pottsville and Philadelphia provided cheaper access to the Philadelphia market. Pine Grove's role takes on added importance because, together with the Schuylkill Canal, Pine Grove and the Union Canal helped make the early development of the Southern Field possible. The Southern Field was the pre-eminent anthracite field in Pennsylvania during the 1830s and 1840s, producing three fifths of the anthracite coal mined in Pennsylvania by the early 1840s.
Pine Grove rapidly declined as a coal transportation center during the 1860s and 1870s. In 1862 a flood destroyed the High Dam north of Pine Grove, closing the branch canal to the borough. In the 1870s the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad began shipping coal out of the Southern Field on their Mine Hill Division rather than on lines that had been constructed through Pine Grove, causing a further decline in coal shipments through the borough. In addition, during the 1870s the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, a subsidiary of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, bought out many of the independent coal operators in the western end of the Southern Field, shifting control of the west end away from mine owners who lived in Pine Grove and the surrounding area.
Although Pine Grove declined as a transportation center, the borough generally continued to grow from the late nineteenth century into the 1920s by attracting small scale industry, including textile factories and a shoe factory. Pine Grove's population grew by eighty per cent between 1900 and 1930 to 2,257 inhabitants in response to these new sources of industrial employment. More single residences and duplexes were also constructed throughout the historic district in order to house the growing population. Indeed, over one third of all buildings in the district were erected between 1900 and the 1930s. Today many of the houses still stand, but only one mill survives in the historic district, the Summit Station Manufacturing Company at 194-196 South Tulpehocken Street.
During most of the years since the 1930s Pine Grove experienced little growth. Local mills closed during the Great Depression, and few new mills or houses were erected within the borough. Renewed growth did not return to Pine Grove until the 1960s when I-81 was constructed four miles west of the borough. The interstate helped bring new small scale factories and more residents to the northern part of the borough, outside of the historic district.
Pine Grove Historic District remains today as the largest and best preserved collection of both vernacular and high-style architecture from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in western Schuylkill County. Only two other towns in western Schuylkill County — Tremont and Tower City — have as large collections of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. However, Tremont contains only a few examples of high style architecture in contrast to the much larger number of high-style buildings that distinguish Pine Grove. The vast majority of buildings in Tremont are frame, two or two and one half story single houses and duplexes with plain exteriors. Tremont has also experienced more post-1937 infill and more alterations to pre-1937 buildings than Pine Grove has. Tower City has a fine collection of vernacular domestic architecture dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The two or two and one half story predominantly frame houses that line the main road through Tower City are as well preserved as the houses in Pine Grove are. However, Tower City also lacks the high-style buildings found in Pine Grove. Only a few examples of high architectural styles are located in Tower City. Thus Pine Grove stands out in western Schuylkill County for its large collection of both vernacular and high style architecture.